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Archive for the ‘Gardens’ Category

Several weeks ago, at the weekly Friday market on Calle del Refugio, I bought a hibiscus plant in a 6 inch pot. It had a single brilliant yellow with red highlights flower, but was filled with promise from multiple buds. I immediately transplanted it into a larger pot and it has proceeded to put on quite a show. As one flower folds up and falls off, another opens to take its place.

September 10, 2022 hibiscus flower
September 16, 2022 hibiscus flower
September 22, 2022 hibiscus flower
September 26, 2022 hibiscus flower
September 27, 2022 hibiscus flower

Each flower is unique and ready for its close-up!

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Sometimes, you just have to stop and marvel at the artistry of organ cactus planted against a wall.

Calle Pajaritos, Barrio de Jalatlaco, Oaxaca de Juárez
Casa Ocho Regiones, Av Benito Juárez, Oaxaca de Juárez
Calle 5 de mayo, Barrio de Jalatlaco, Oaxaca de Juárez

The sculptural effects of organ cactus always seem to create a WOW factor.

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At long last, thunder is rumbling and rain is pouring down on the highways, byways, and rooftops of Oaxaca. If you look closely, you can see the buckets collecting the runoff from the new pergola.

View from the shelter of the new pergola.

Oaxaca, a largely agricultural state, desperately needs the rain. Let’s hope it lasts!

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After four seasons of living with the blazing sun on the rooftop of the new Casita Colibrí, I decided the lone, albeit large, umbrella over the table was completely inadequate in making the terrace compatible with human occupation. Thus, a pergola project was begun. Much web surfing and consultation with friends with engineering and construction experience ensued — including Tom H. (thank you!) who designed and supervised the shade structure at the old Casita Colibrí.

May 30, 2021 – The rooftop before I moved in.
July 22, 2021 – A month after my garden moved in.
August 1, 2022 – Construction of the pergola begins.
August 1, 2022 – With a crew of 5, the framing went up quickly.
August 1, 2022 – Lamina being attached to the framing.
August 1, 2022 – More welding of the frame (those are sparks in lower center of the photo).
August 2, 2022 – Installing the final lamina panels.
For those engineering folks, here is how the steel posts are bolted to the floor of the terrace.
August 4, 2022 – Tables, plants, and chiminea positioned and wind chimes finally hung.

A huge “muchisimas gracias” to Civil Engineer, Omar Rito and his crew of five for their wonderful work constructing a perfect rooftop pergola in two days!

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A couple of weeks ago, my friend K and I spent the day in the land of red clay, San Marcos Tlapazola, at the home of potter, Valentina Cruz. I have accumulated quite a collection (though not nearly as much as K) of barro rojo and several of my favorite pieces are by Valentina.

Getting there was quite the adventure. Leaving from Teotitlán del Valle (where I was spending a long weekend), the journey entailed taking a 3-wheeled moto (aka, tuk-tuk) to the highway, catching a bus to Tlacolula de Matamoros, multiple times asking for directions re where to find transportation to take us to Tlapazola, a bit of wandering around, ten blocks of walking, followed by waiting and wondering if we were in the right place. After 1/2 hour, a combi (a glorified pickup truck with wooden benches in the truck bed) arrived and took us up towards the mountains. Needless to say, the bouncing caused by the dirt roads and potholes were felt! Unfortunately, because the back of the truck was covered, we couldn’t even enjoy the views — that had to wait until we finally arrived at Valentina’s home/workshop/store.

The red clay soil isn’t just good for making pottery. Agave, cactus, corn, and squash also seem to thrive under the tender loving care of Valentina and her husband, Don Luis.

When we arrived, Valentina was busy at the tortilla press and comal — making tlayudas (large crispy tortillas) to accompany the chicken soup prepared by her daughter. After we all finished eating comida, we watched as Valentina took out a smooth river rock and began to burnish several pieces. This extra step puts a lovely sheen on her pottery and is one of the things that makes her work stand out.

Of course, I couldn’t resist buying the two horn-playing rabbits (top photo) at the tienda in her home. They join the face with the lid (also in top photo), among my many utilitarian pieces expertly crafted by Valentina. She and her beautiful barro rojo pottery can also be found at the weekly Sunday market in Tlacolula. After this lovely, but long day, we opted for her to call us a taxi to drive back to Teotitlán.

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We read the news today, oh boy. Early last night a violent thunderstorm brought gale force winds and torrential rain. It didn’t last long but it took its toll. The beloved giant Indian laurel that provided shade to the concerts, danzón, and other programs “bajo el laurel” on the zócalo toppled to the ground. Thankfully, no one was injured.

The iconic Indian laurels were planted on Oaxaca’s Zócalo and Alameda de León between 1870 and 1880. However, in the thirteen years that I have lived here, I’ve lost count of the number of laurels that have fallen.

As the late artist and heritage tree advocate Francisco Verástegui once explained to me, the trees suffered from damage caused by an aborted remodel of the Zócalo in 2005, along with improper pruning, inadequate irrigation, faulty drainage, and the use of unsterilized mulch leading to the growth of fungus and causing the roots to rot.

I wasn’t the only one to come to pay my respects to this magnificent tree. “Muy triste” (very sad) was the morning’s refrain, as people filed by shaking their heads and others stopped to watch as the body of the Indian laurel was prepared for it’s final resting place.

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Last Saturday, Hagamos Composta picked up our filled bins and left these. Are our compost gals making a statement?

The librarian/archivist in me compels me to share a link to Saving Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Online. Proud of my profession.

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I’m home in Barrio de Jalatlaco — rested, recovered, and caught-up — after a three-day fiesta at the home of my compadres in Teotitlán del Valle. Tranquil before photos…

Dried corn husks in waiting.
Shadows on the wall.
Nixtamalizing dried corn kernels.
Courtyard art of the arrangement.
Dried corn: To be cleaned, rejected, and keepers (top to bottom).

Three days of breakfasts, lunches, and dinners with 20 to 160 family members and compadres, formal presentations, and a ritual ceremony — all to acknowledge and celebrate the promise of marriage between the youngest daughter and her intended. More from the celebrations to come.

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Our Day in the country’s final destination was San Bernardo Mixtepec. The scenery was spectacular as we drove south from Zimatlán de Álvarez, through the valley, and northeast up into the mountains. It was mid October, nearing Día de Muertos and in the valley there were fields filled with cempasúchitl (marigolds) and cresta de gallo (cockscomb) waiting to be picked for altars. In the meantime, they were being enjoyed by a local grasshopper.

Navigating the narrow, winding, and steep roads, we eventually arrived at the palenque and family home of José Alberto Pablo and his father Mario. Perched on the side of a mountain, it offers stunning views.

Fermentation is done in clay pots in a specially built room, and clay pots are used for distillation. In an eco-friendly feature, he recirculates the condenser water rather than letting it drain into a stream.

At some point in the history of San Bernardo Mixtepc, a persuasive vendor must have introduced the palenqueros to enameled metal condensers. Over time they rust and deposit a small amount of rust into the mezcal — giving it a distinctive yellow-orange color. According to José Alberto, the villagers have become so accustomed to the color, they are reluctant to drink clear mezcal.

José Alberto Pablo, his father Mario, and Craig T. (middle) — a very happy mezcal aficionado.

Yes, we bought! I came away with a lovely rusty tobalá. By the way, they also use stainless and copper condensers to make clear rust-less mezcal — for the less adventurous and to satisfy the mezcal regulatory board.

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Flora and fauna and mezcal, oh my! That pretty much sums up the next stop on my day in the country adventure with friends. After leaving Villa de Zaachila, we headed south to Zimatlán de Álvarez and the working farm and palenque of René Parada Barriga (sold under label, Tío René). René was at a meeting, so his son Moisés capably took over the palenque’s touring and teaching duties.

Tithonia diversifolia (aka, Mexican sunflower) reaching toward the sky.
Agave plantlets waiting to be planted.
Nonchalant cattle relaxing in the shade.
Friendly goat saying, “buenas tardes.”
Tools of the trade.
Omnipresent home altar.
Cooking pit awaiting the next batch of agave.
Fermentation vats.
Copper stills.
Moisés offering a taste.
Sophia filling one of our empty bottles.

We came prepared, bringing our own plastic bottles and René’s wife Sophia poured and sold. I bought a lovely copper distilled Cuish and, once home, transferred it into one of my many empty glass bottles — saved for days such as this. Our next (and last) stop was another palenque. Stay tuned!

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After a twelve year wait, my Pachypodium lamerei has bloomed! Though not a palm, you may know it as a Madagascar Palm.

First thing every morning, while the coffee is brewing, I go up on the rooftop to wish my plants a “buenos días” and check to see if the water heater pilot is still lit — but I digress.

Two and a half weeks ago my Pachypodium lamerei surprised me with its first ever flower.

And the blooms keep coming. I think it likes its new home!

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With storms to the north and storms to the south, Oaxaca is stuck in the middle. And the rain keeps falling. Sometimes, the sun peeks through the clouds…

On the terrace – August 22, 2021 – early evening.
View from the terrace – August 22, 2021 – early evening.
View from the terrace – August 22, 2021 – early evening.

And, sometimes it doesn’t…

View from the terrace – August 25, 2021 – midday.
View from the terrace – August 25, 2021 – midday
View from the terrace – August 22, 2021 – midday.

Sometimes it rains in the late afternoon, sometimes at night, and sometimes (like today) the rains come on and off throughout the day. ‘Tis the season.

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This morning: Four Night Blooming Cereus flowers and one seriously busy bee!

Life in the rooftop garden.

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When last we left Casita Colibrí’s garden, it had weathered Moving days and the plants were Surviving and thriving wherever they had landed at their new home.

Much to the movers’ relief, some (though, not a lot!) of the plants were to remain on the ground floor. With those, it was within my artistic ability to create an entryway and to arrange the palms and other shade-loving plants in my new apartment’s atrium.

However, the landscaping on the rooftop, where the majority of the plants landed, was left to the imagination — as I had neither the strength nor the skill. Consequently, two and a half weeks ago, under a blazing hot and unrelenting sun, my friend and excellent landscaper Jose Ruiz Garcia and his nephew came over to move, position, and re-position trees and succulents and shrubs — oh my!

Most mornings it’s now where I begin my day. With coffee in hand, I cautiously wend my way up the narrow spiral staircase to commune with my plants, listen to the birds sing and chatter, and enjoy this beautiful and tranquil garden that Jose has created. It’s also a perfect setting to sip a glass of wine as the sun sets.

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Many of my View From Casita Colibrí regular readers have expressed concern regarding how the garden survived the move. I want to assure you, though it desperately needs landscaping, the plants are surviving and thriving in their new home.

Flor de Mayo
Night Blooming Cereus
Cayenne pepper
Crown of Thorns
Madagascar Jasmine
Buddha belly plant (Jatropha podagrica)

Methinks it is, in no small part, due to our daily late afternoon downpours. It is the rainiest rainy season since 2010 — at least that I can remember!

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